Student Well-Being Opinion

How Robotics Motivated Me to Stay in School

By Starr Sackstein — March 05, 2017 4 min read
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Guest post By Giselle Galindo, Long Island City High School Student

I love my high school but sometimes people don’t have the nicest things to say about it which is why it may be surprising to some that I love it so much.

Don’t get me wrong, there are subjects I don’t like and I don’t like learning because sometimes my peers make it hard for me to learn because they can be loud or maybe even obnoxious. And having a grumpy face from time to time isn’t uncommon, however, there’s a reason why I love to come to school each day.

I’m on the school’s robotics team. The robotics team consists of students working together with their mentors to build a robot for competition. Every year is not the same because there’s always something new the organizers want us to do and always a new theme forcing us to consider different innovations.

Last year, for example was STRONGHOLD which was medieval themed and this year is STEAMWORKS which is steampunk themed. Just the name on its own sounds very intimidating and pretty stressful and honestly, it is both things.

Before teams get to know what we are doing, there’s always a teaser the competition gives us and then we make assumptions about what we expectations are. Since it is STEAMWORKS the team were thinking it’s a flight or water game. It ended up being flight-based and there are so many things our robot has to do in order to earn points.

Students have to shoot balls in the air, put gears on the pedals for the “airship”, and even make the robot climb a rope. It all has to be done in under six weeks which may seem like enough time, but it’s not.

There are so many parts we have to setup and calculations to figure out. So much working and putting together, maybe even taking apart and starting from scratch, if we are unlucky. It’s kind of like when I learned to make my bed and I had to do it a couple of times to get it perfect until I got the hang of it (that was a really weird analogy, but you get the point).

Through the weeks it’s a lot stress and working, a participant has to carry on their shoulders. After the six weeks we “bag and tag” the robot and don’t touch it till competition day.

When I first joined this year, the mentors showed us a video of what the competition looks like. The arena was full of other robotics teams with flashing cameras observing the robots compete from a small space and the drivers faces shown on the big screen. I didn’t know if I could handle the pressure; it was intimidating.

However, I decided I was up for any challenge. Given the job of a scouter, I have to sit for matches and watch other team’s robots then write down which teams can do what and which teams we can form alliances with. I get to walk around and get to know to other teams and get a one-on-one with the robot.

As stressful as this sounds, I love every single bit of it.

“Hands-on” learning is something that I never thought I do or ever consider loving. I was always so focused on literature, history or my photography, until I had auto shop in my freshman year of high school.

When It was the first day of class I was just like “well this might be my free period, I probably won’t do much in here” but I was completely wrong. I came to learn how to use a ratchet and my teacher showed us the parts of the engine and made us tear it apart and put it back together. He even showed us how to replace the tire of the car. All very useful skills to have.

I came to love mechanics because my teacher kept me so into it. Everyday it was so exciting to come back because I learned something new and he would show me new tools to use. The tools he made me use even made my strength grow a lot in my arms which was very beneficial. The tools made me love the hands-on work. When the year ended, I knew I wasn’t ready to let it all go.

So I joined robotics. Using the same skills I learned in auto shop, it was so much easier for me and extremely fun. I was also able to make friends and just get more comfortable with tools.

Robotics is the reason why I’m so in love with my school, I don’t regret putting down “Long island City High School: Culinary and Hospitality academy” as my high school choice in middle school.

After going through a few personal experiences in my life that I don’t want to talk about, school was getting rough for me. I was at a turning point; I couldn’t take it anymore and I planned on dropping out of high school. Robotics is what kept me in school. One day I thought to myself, “I can’t just leave this all behind, this is what makes me happy and motivated in school; it’s completely stupid of me to just leave.”

The thoughts just went out of my head and I’m completely motivated again.

People have so many unnecessary criticisms about this school that I honestly don’t agree on because I came to love mechanics and robotics. Currently our team is waiting until competition day to compete and see our robot succeed.

In what ways are you engaging your students to make a meaningful impact on their lives? Please share

Giselle Galindo is a sophomore at Long Island City High School who comes from an immigrant family. Giselle is interested in photography, literature, and engineering. She plans on having a huge following on YouTube to show her videos to a large audience and do the job she loves most, which includes holding a camera.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.